Tonawanda News

June 25, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: How young is too young for a rock concert?

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A few weeks back, I wrote a column on kids needing hearing protection at rock concerts. It has sparked far more discussion than I could have ever hoped for — some positive and others negative. One of the things that has been brought up many times is the idea that a “rock concert is no place for children.”

In some ways I get that argument, since many rock concerts aren’t exactly family-friendly environments. Even at the few shows I have attended this year, there are still people smoking things in public that they shouldn’t be smoking and drinking too much alcohol.

Nonetheless, a blanket “no kids at concerts” rule seems to harsh to me. With regard to the noise, even parents that bring kids to fireworks displays should be making their kids use hearing protection. There is plenty of research that shows fireworks explosions can cause permanent hearing loss in young kids.

As far as “kids” going to rock concerts, that brings up a whole other debate, should they be there and at what age?

My first rock concert almost happened when I was 12 years old. I won tickets on a local radio station to a Triumph concert. My dad said there was no way in … you get the idea. When I turned 14, Dad let me go and see Styx, and then my second concert was Triumph.

My son Thomas’ first concert was Rik Emmett when he was 8 years old. My son Trevor’s first show was Todd Rundgren, Nazareth and Blue Oyster Cult when he was 6 years old. Trevor sat on my shoulders wearing ear plugs and the only really bad thing that happened as a consequence was that the only song Trevor wanted to sing for a week afterward was the chorus of  Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog.” (If you know the song you can attest that it’s not something you want your 6-year-old singing!)

In retrospect, bringing a kid to a rock concert at age 6 may not have been the best thing I have ever done, but Trevor turned out pretty well, and both he and his brother are huge music fans and both play instruments.

I can’t say for sure if going to a concert at a young age changed my kids’ lives, but I can say that I will never forget my first concert, and I still love going to shows many years later.

As far as kids going to shows is concerned, at one of the Lockport shows last year there was a row of strollers with sleeping babies near the back of the venue while some young parents watched the band. The music was not loud enough to do any damage and the parents had a well-deserved night out and didn’t have to worry about a babysitter. I’m all right with that.

What I am not all right with is the occasional parent jammed up against the barrier with their kid and they are standing in front of a huge speaker. I know there is nothing I can say or do that will make that person a better parent, nor can I justify kicking them out. The only thing I can do is hand the kid a set of ear plugs and hope at the next show someone else will do the same.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyles. Email him at